“My heart is with the woman who has had an abortion”

Karen Colageo speaks to 40DFL volunteers.
Karen Colageo speaks to 40DFL volunteers.

CareNet volunteer Karen Colageo was the featured speaker at the closing gathering for Manchester, New Hampshire’s 40 Days for Life winter campaign. She’s been a post-abortion counselor for more than a decade. “I’m here to speak about abortions, not ‘abortion.’ Specific events. Private, emotionally wrenching experiences. The stories you need to hear are the individual testimonies.” The abortions she experienced herself were an important factor in her eventual work. “My heart is with the woman who has had an abortion.”

Colageo is married to a local Lutheran pastor, and her post-abortion-counseling work includes use of a Bible study called “Forgiven and Set Free.” Does that put off some of the women she tries to reach? “It grieves me, really, when nonbelievers avoid the program because it’s a Bible study.” She described one such woman who gave the program a second look after she was unsatisfied with other attempts at post-abortion counseling.  “She came back to me and said ‘I’ve tried everything else; what have I got to lose?'”

Several years after having her abortions, she bore a child whose arrival nudged open a spiritual door. “I had a beautiful baby girl. Despite what I had done, God had entrusted me with a beautiful child, an unmerited gift.” Coming to terms with her earlier abortions was a gradual and difficult process, and Colageo is frank about the religious dimension to her healing as she realized she had taken the lives of her other children. Through her involvement in a church community, she learned about CareNet and sought counseling there, her first encounter with the “Forgiven and Set Free” program. “Finally, someone allowed me to grieve, and applied the healing words of the Gospel to my open wounds. We learned to pray with David [Psalm 51]: ‘a broken, contrite heart, O Lord, you will not despise.'”

She fully accepts the estimate that one in three women will have an abortion by age 45. “Be careful what you say. There are a lot of broken women out there. Condemnation does no good. Women must be saved as well as children. We cannot forget that.” She says about her work, “Women need to know their abortions can be forgiven. They can turn death into life. I’ve seen truly broken women come alive.”

The evening’s gathering also served as a baby shower for four area agencies serving pregnant women and young parents: Birthright, CareNet, the Pennacook Pregnancy Center, and Our Place.

The next 40 Days for Life campaign is scheduled to begin September 23.



Day of Remembrance for the Unborn

mtcalvary-monument-to-unborn-a mtcalvary-mounument-to-unborn-bSeveral national pro-life groups have set aside the second Saturday in September as a day of remembrance each year for children lost to abortion.

Some churches in my area, including my own, have a small monument or marker on church property in remembrance of children who die before birth, not just from abortion but also from stillbirth or miscarriage. The monument at Mount Calvary  cemetery in Manchester, New Hampshire is large enough to be covered with names on one side – the names of preborn children whose parents recognize their humanity, who recognize that the death of a  preborn child is a loss.

My husband and I have lost three children through miscarriage. That’s probably why I felt such a wrench inside when I first saw the monument in Manchester. The loss is personal, yet it was comforting to see a tangible sign that we’re not alone in recognizing that our miscarriages were not simply medical events. Every time I visit the cemetery, a voice inside me says somebody understands. 

For every name on that monument, who knows how many unnamed children are mourned there by post-abortive women who stop by for silent prayer?

Join those women this weekend, in spirit if not in person. Remember their children.


Encore: look for this basic pro-life reference book

This post was originally published on Leaven for the Loaf on May 4, 2012. The text has been edited.

Voices of Post-Abortive Women

Aborted Women: Silent No More by David C. Reardon. 1987: Crossway Books, ISBN 0891074511.  Reissued 2002: Elliot Institute, ISBN 0964895722

I have the older edition on my shelf. It was the first thing I ever read about post-abortive women, beyond a few brochures from an outfit called Women Exploited by Abortion. With WEBA’s cooperation, Reardon surveyed 252 women in 42 states about their abortion decisions and the aftermath. The survey results would have fit into a short magazine article. What makes the book so enlightening and necessary are the many stories recounted by and about the women who agreed to speak to Reardon.

Reardon surveyed 252 women in 42 states. That’s a fairly small sample, and to a degree it was a self-selected group, since the women were part of WEBA. The stories and the numbers are powerful nonetheless. All the women cited in the book were determined to be “silent no more”. Their stories had, and continue to have, urgency and importance.

One of Reardon’s statistics stands out even today: over two-thirds of the women surveyed felt rushed to make the abortion decision. It’s ironic that lawmakers still argue now over whether a 24-hour waiting period is too great an imposition on a woman’s right to choose abortion.

This book is available on Amazon but might be hard to find in bookstores. Look on your church’s bookshelf. This one made a splash when it was first published, and a lot of faith communities with active pro-life ministries picked up the book.

Listening to “one in three”

note: This post has been edited to address an individual’s privacy concerns.

Let’s talk

“The 1 in 3 campaign is a grassroots movement to start a new conversation about abortion …” says the 1 in 3 Campaign web site. There’s more: “Together, we can end the stigma and shame women are made to feel about abortion. As we share our stories we begin to build a culture of compassion, empathy, and support for access to basic health care.”

They gave away the game there, mentioning abortion and “basic health care” in the same paragraph. So much for a new conversation. But I’ll be glad to chime in.

The numbers …

Someone is putting serious money into the 1 in 3 Campaign to sell the idea that lots of women have abortions and have gotten over them just fine.

“One in three” is how many women will have abortions, according to the campaign’s organizing group – Advocates for Youth, “with a sole focus on adolescent reproductive and sexual health.” A realistic figure, perhaps, but unprovable. Abortion advocates have been very successful in preventing public-health data collection on abortion.

Noted abortion absolutist Gloria Steinem was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week. She took advantage of the occasion to tell the Washington Post, “Approximately one in three women in this country needs an abortion at some time in her life.” Good echo. A PR campaign needs a good tag line.

Not that I think the actual number of women affected by abortion is trivial. Twenty years ago, whenever I participated in panels and debates about the right to life, I always assumed that if I were speaking to a group of ten women, at least one would be post-abortive. For the last couple of years, I’ve assumed it’s more like one in five. Fifty million abortions since ’73 means a lot of mothers of dead children.

Do I have data and polls? No. I have people in my life who have trusted me with the truth about their lives.

Do the numbers matter? Accurate ones do, because each number represents a person. Several, in fact. Each abortion involves a pregnant woman in some kind of crisis, a child who can’t understand its fate, a man who (if he’s consulted at all) learns to deny fatherhood, a “provider” who gets through the shift by calling what she’s doing “health care.”

That’s a lot of damage.

…and the people behind the numbers

The 1 in 3 people are sure that if women tell their stories, the shock of abortion will wear off and we’ll all see it as “normal.” There will be no “stigma and shame” if only women would talk. And did you catch Steinem’s “needs”? One in three women needs an abortion …

I have some news: women have been talking for a long time.

One in three, four, five, or twenty: even if anyone were counting accurately, what difference would that make to a woman in a crisis pregnancy? It’s one-in-one to her. Sisterhood has to mean more than telling her that her abortion’s no big deal. There are women who have been there, and who have worked to provide abortions to others, who know better than to think the pain and loss and outrage of abortion can be PR’d away. Listen to some of them.

Catherine Adair, from her blog The Harvest Is Abundant:

… I have no idea when my baby would have been born. I never named her/him, it never even occurred to me to do so. When I walked out of that abortion clinic, I never thought about that baby again for years. The happiness I had experienced when I found out I was pregnant was replaced with a bitterness and anger. Anger at those people who kept insisting that abortion was the killing of a child. Didn’t they know it was just a blob of tissue? Why did they think it was a baby?

What I realize now is that in having an abortion, in killing my baby, I lost a piece of my humanity. In order to see the humanity of the child, I would have to admit my own participation in murder. And when everyone you know insists that abortion is a good thing, it is very hard to see otherwise. In fact, this is exactly why pro-abortion people villify pro-lifers the way they do and label us “extremists.”

Georgette Forney, as quoted in feministsforlife.org’s Voices of Women Who Mourn:

AT AGE 16, I found out that I was pregnant, and I had an abortion to hide the truth that I was sexually active. The day after the abortion, I woke up and decided to pretend that the previous day had never happened. After that, I became sexually promiscuous and began smoking pot and sedating myself with alcohol.

At age 32, I realized that I had played God when I aborted my baby, and for the first time, I truly knew that I had taken the life of my baby. But my thoughts stopped there.

At age 34, I got sick and began a time of deep searching and seeking to understand the drive I had to be a perfectionist. One day while cleaning out my basement, I picked up my junior-year yearbook. When I opened it to look at my fellow classmates, I didn’t see them. Instead I felt the weight and physical-ness of my aborted baby in my arms. Immediately, I knew it was the baby I aborted, and I instantly became aware of all I had missed out on in being her mother (yes, it was a baby girl in my arms). No one was more shocked by this experience than I, and I started weeping and crying for what I lost.

At age 35, I went through an abortion recovery program called Forgiven and Set Free. I knew for the first time in my life the real meaning of peace, and I finally forgave myself.

At age 36, I began to consider this issue of abortion from another angle.

At age 38, I got involved in counseling other girls online. That’s when I truly understood the depth of pain experienced by many women, and I knew then that abortion hurts more than it helps and the truth needed to be told.

At age 42, I stand here because, after five years of counseling women who have been hurt by abortion, I can be silent no more. Women deserve better than abortion, and until our sisters are no longer forced to suffer the physical and psychological consequences, I will speak the truth: Abortion hurts women. And if you are hurting, there is help.

We will be Silent No More.
Testimony by Georgette Forney,
Executive Director or NOEL and
Co-founder of Silent No More Awareness Campaign

Jewels Green, as told to Kristen Walker:

There are far too many innocent lives being snuffed out in our country before they have the opportunity to take their first breath, and as a nation we should be doing better. We need to do better. We need to provide real resources to pregnant mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy. The women and babies of our country deserve better. After all, sometimes the best things in life aren’t planned.

Happy Nobirthday, Unbaby. I miss you every day. Love & tears, Mom.

VirtueMedia.org has given a group of post-abortive women the opportunity to record their stories in their own words. As “Donna” says, “I just know this whole thing about choice, about a woman’s right to choose, is not freedom. In the end, it’s not freedom. It’s a prison.”


Listen to the women of Project Rachel. Listen to Abby Johnson. Listen to our friends and sisters and daughters and each other.

I think we can love and support each other with something more substantial than the assurance that everybody (or 1 in 3 women, at any rate) has an abortion eventually. There’s no love or mercy or healing in that. A PR campaign can divert the viewer from a post-abortive woman’s child, but can’t undo the reality that the child existed. When it’s normal for the medical trade to peddle abortion as just another service, that’s a “norm” to be overturned. When there’s no “stigma” to destroying an inconvenient life, I’m not sure any of us is safe.

When a woman of great intelligence and influence smoothly slips the words one in three women needs an abortion into her interviews, it’s time to stop short and think about what it means to “need” another human being to stop existing.

Then it’s time to listen to the women who bought the lie and now renounce it.

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